Mayday Monday: Radio Communications

Mayday Monday: Radio Communications

By Tony Carroll

As we see January come to an end and move into February, we here at the Mayday Monday office wanted to bring attention to some findings after last month’s drill. In January, we worked on Calling the Mayday! During my company’s training, we noticed the radio transmissions were extremely difficult to understand. This was the case especially for the firefighters who aren’t used to talking on the radio. For the officers and those who regularly make transmissions, the messages were clearer. What’s the issue? Hand positioning while talking on the remote speaker mic. It is so easy to cover up the mic when grasping the RSM (remote speaker microphone), especially with fire gloves on. We must practice to find the best hand positioning.

Fire gloves make a lot of our operations more difficult. In February, we will see the anniversary of a tragedy where fire gloves hindered a member in trouble. Two firefighters and a civilian were killed and four firefighters were injured during a fire at the Indianapolis Athletic Club in February of 1992. One of the recommendations from the After Action Report was:

Communications equipment and systems need to be redesigned for firefighting service– especially the radio.

One of the firefighters injured in the fire was forced to remove a glove in order to get his message out. This caused severe burns to his hand. The report said “the emergency or distress button is virtually impossible to operate.” For more on this tragic fire, here is a link to a FEMA report:

Fortunately for us, both our radios and fire gloves have been improved. This month’s Mayday Monday drill is to practice these skills with our gloves on. Here’s the plan:

First:  Don your face piece while wearing your firefighting gloves. Here’s a video to help show how to don your face piece with your gloves on. SCBA video. (Thanks to Real Fire Training, LLC for the video)

Second: Transmit a message over your radio.  Can be a Mayday, or   whatever message you choose.

Let’s go practice.  You want to make sure you get your message out. Please send some pictures of you and your crews doing the drill. If possible, please send recordings of the transmitted messages. Send to

Tony Carroll is a captain with the safety office of the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.

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